Sep 27, 2023 - News

San Francisco supervisor wants right turns on red banned

A no-turn-on-red sign in San Francisco. Photo:

San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston wants the city to ban right turns on red, and on Tuesday introduced a resolution that would urge the city's transportation department to do so.

Why it matters: Turn-on-red crashes have proved dangerous, accounting for 20% of pedestrian- or bicycle-related injury crashes involving drivers turning at signal-based intersections, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

What's happening: If the Board of Supervisors adopts the resolution, it would function as its official stance on the topic, but the decision ultimately rests with the SFMTA board of directors.

Context: An SFMTA analysis last year found the number of close calls between vehicles and pedestrians decreased following the 2021 implementation of no-turn-on-red at more than 50 intersections in the Tenderloin, which is part of Preston's district.

  • Plus, the number of vehicles blocking or encroaching into crosswalks on a red light decreased by more than 70% following that ban.

What they're saying: Given the success in the Tenderloin and the increase in traffic fatalities throughout the city, Preston said in a press release the city "should be expanding NTOR to every neighborhood," especially in areas that have high numbers of traffic-related injuries and fatalities.

  • "We have the tools, and we should be using these tools in a coordinated way, with urgency, to ensure we are doing everything possible to prevent serious traffic injuries and fatalities," he wrote.

Luke Bornheimer, a transportation safety advocate who has pushed for a no-turn-on red policy, previously told Axios banning turns on red would make it safer and easier for children, people with disabilities, seniors and others to cross the street.

SFMTA spokesperson Stephen Chun said the transportation agency is "deeply committed" to eliminating traffic-related fatalities in San Francisco, he told Axios via email.

  • The SFMTA is still reviewing the details of Preston's resolution, Chun said, adding the agency is working to prioritize areas where "the safety risks are the highest."
  • This month, Chun said via email the SFMTA was not "considering banning turns on red lights citywide."

The big picture: San Francisco had more traffic fatalities during the pandemic than the three years preceding it, according to the SFMTA.

  • San Francisco reported 96 fatal crashes in 2020–22, a 33% increase from 2017–19.

What to watch: Whether San Francisco will follow the lead of cities like New York, which has already banned right turns on red, and Seattle, which began phasing out right-on-red turns in May in an effort to reduce collisions involving cars and pedestrians.


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